In the United States, public school enrollment is typically organized by neighborhood boundaries. This dissertation examines whether the federally funded HOPE VI program influenced performance in neighborhood public schools. In effect since 1992, HOPE VI has sought to revitalize distressed public housing using the New Urbanism model of mixed income communities. There are 165 such HOPE VI projects nationwide. Despite nearly two decades of the program’s implementation, the literature on its connection to public school performance is thin. My dissertation aims to narrow this research gap. There are three principal research questions:
(1) Following HOPE VI, was there a change in socioeconomic status (SES) in the neighborhood public school? The hypothesis is that low SES (measured as the proportion of students qualifying for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program) would reduce.
(2) Following HOPE VI, did the performance of neighborhood public schools change? The hypothesis is that the school performance, measured by the proportion of 5th grade students proficient in state wide math and reading tests, would increase.
(3) What factors relate to the performance of public schools in HOPE VI communities? The focus is on non-school, neighborhood factors that influence the public school performance.
For answering the first two questions, I used t-tests and regression models to test the hypotheses. The analysis shows that there is no statistically significant change in SES following HOPE VI. However, there are statistically significant increases in performance for reading and math proficiency. The results are interesting in indicating that HOPE VI neighborhood improvement may have some relationship with improving school performance. To answer the third question, I conducted a case study analysis of two HOPE VI neighborhood public schools, one which improved significantly (in Philadelphia) and one which declined the most (in Washington DC). The analysis revealed three insights into neighborhood factors for improved school performance: (i) a strong local community organization; (ii) local community’s commitment (including the middle income families) to send children to the public school; and (iii) ties between housing and education officials to implement the federal housing program. In essence, the study reveals how housing policy is de facto education policy.